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09/08/2014 - Inaugural Ceremony Marks Opening of Integrated Clubs for Children At-Risk for the Bedouin Negev Community

Israel's Minister of Welfare Meir Cohen, Neve Midbar Regional Council Head Rachamim Yona, Neve Midbar Regional Council Director of Social Services Dr. Al-Atauna Magid, leaders of the Bedouin community and other guests participated in a moving ceremony at the Negev Bedouin village of Abu Korinat, south of Beersheva, to inaugurate the opening of Integrated Clubs for Children At-Risk, based on Negba's Houses of Hope model, to serve 75 children at-risk for the Bedouin community.

"The Bedouin community deserves these services," said Minister Cohen, remarking that projects such as this one, funded by the Israeli government, also aim to compensate for discrimination against the Bedouin community.

A unique partnership project between Negba, the Neve Midbar Regional Council and SOS Children's Villages, the initiative aims to assist one of Israel's most distressed communities. Proud Israeli citizens who value serving in the Israel Defense Forces, the Bedouin are recognized for their commitment to the State of Israel. But polygamy, a birth rate among the highest in the world, tribal conflicts, and economic and territorial instability are the leading factors contributing to an exceedingly poor Bedouin community. The Bedouin of the Negev number roughly 200,000, and by 2020 their population will reach 300,000. Their children desperately need an opportunity to escape the cycle of disadvantage in which they are trapped.

"Every child in Israel should be allowed the same opportunities to advance in life," remarked Danny Kahn, who is managing the initiative at Negba. "We believe that the establishment of these Integrated Clubs for Children At-Risk is proof that genuine cooperation can promote a social agenda. We are grateful to have such wonderful partners to make that happen," he said.

Guests were treated to a performance by some of the 45 children attending the Abu Korinat Integrated Clubs, and toured the 300 square meter facility housing them, situated adjacent to a Ministry of Health Mother and Infant Care Center to facilitate outreach. Two additional Integrated Clubs, in the villages of Kasr-a-Sir and Bir-Hadaj, are slated to open in the coming weeks and will each serve an additional 15 children at-risk.

The recent military operation in Gaza exposed the extreme vulnerability of the Bedouin, who live in tents and makeshift homes lacking bomb shelters and early warning systems. Two fatal civilian casualties during the war were Bedouin. Given the critical situation, Negba and its partners decided to open the Abu Korinat Integrated Clubs in July during the heavy rocket shelling, and prior to the planned opening in September, serving as the only safe structure for the Bedouin during the Gaza military campaign.

Children attending the Integrated Clubs will arrive five days a week after school for six hours of tutoring, computerized teaching, educational enrichment, counseling, social and cultural activities, and two hot meals. Negba is responsible for equipping the Integrated Clubs and providing training, planning and implementation. SOS-Children’s Villages, with its excellent record serving disadvantaged children, including Bedouin, and already active in the region with a children’s village in Arad, will operate the Integrated Clubs. And the Neve Midbar Regional Council will run the project and provide most of the operating costs secured from the Ministry of Welfare, demonstrating Israel's commitment to improve the quality of life of the Bedouin.

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